It has recently come to my attention that edge traps are a serious problem for motorcycles and aren't well known about. Or they may be known to be a serious problem, but some riders don't know the name for them. Edge traps are essentially a change of elevation on the road surface that runs parallel to the path of travel. Some examples of edge traps are uneven pavement layers, railroad or trolley tracks, pavement seams, curbs, ruts, etc.
Why are edge traps a problem for motorcyclists?
The front wheel of the bike can fall into the edge trap, in the case of the gap around railroad and trolley tracks, or they can track along an edge, like uneven layers of pavement often seen in repaving construction zones. These things can "trap" the front tire and control the steering of the bike to the point of causing a crash. In heavy traffic or low visibility situations, edge traps are much harder to see in advance. As soon as you identify an edge trap - and sooner is better than later - you need to decide whether you can safely avoid it. If this isn't possible you will need to pass over it.
How To Ride Over an Edge Trap
Once the decision has been made to cross the edge trap, it is important to slow down as much as it is safely possible to do so. Be very aware of the surrounding traffic, especially the traffic behind you! Slow down smoothly and as gradually as possible. Don't just downshift and/or roll off the throttle. Actively use the brakes. When the brake lights come on this signals the surrounding drivers that slowing is happening. Those lights are for the other vehicles, not for the motorcyclist. Make sure they come on. When slow enough to safely cross, swing wide in the lane approaching the edge trap as head on as possible with a minimum of no less than a 45 degree angle.
Crossing any obstacle is always best at as close to a 90 degree angle (or straight on) as it is possible to get. Forty-five degrees is the minimum crossing angle. Riding parallel to the edge trap and hoping to just drift across it is the worst plan of action.
If it is in your lane directly parallel to your path and needs to be crossed over, then swing the bike as far away from it as possible while still remaining in the lane. Angle the bike to cross the edge as straight-on as possible. Making sure to remain in the lane during the entirety of the procedure.
In addition to approaching the crossing at no less than a 45 degree angle, the next most important thing when dealing with edge traps is seeing them as early as possible. When approaching construction zones there may be signs warning motorcyclists of uneven road surfaces, but this always isn't the case.
There are usually signs warning you to slow down in construction zones but that's easy to remember if only because fines double. It is also a good idea to increase following distance in construction zones or heavy traffic. This makes it easier to spot hazards before needing to deal with them.
There are times, especially in construction zones, where the new smooth pavement is like the song of a siren. It usually coincides along with old pavement that is rough, bumpy or uneven because of patching. The new lane is usually elevated higher than the old lane which creates an edge trap. The safer option may be to stay in the rough lane rather than dealing with the edge trap at all. The lane may not be wide enough to achieve enough of an angle before surmounting the edge trap or the edge itself might be significantly higher than the current lane. If it is uncomfortable to cross the edge trap because of inexperience (or anything else) and it isn't a necessity, consider remaining where you are.
Lorri Carney has saddled up since 2006 and in that time owned six motorcycles, her current ride a 2015 Triumph Tiger 800 named Gwendolyn. After five years of riding she joined Team Oregon as an instructor, one of the best decisions she's ever made.